WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Two weeks ago, I wrote a list of things I liked about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so it only makes sense to put on my contrarian hat and list off the things I didn’t like about it. While I think claiming The Last Jedi is a complete betrayal of the series is a gross exaggeration, there are some legitimate criticisms about it that hold it back – they just tend to get drowned out by incredibly sexist comments and stupid-ass petitions demanding it be stricken from canon (yes, that one is true).
Anyway, let’s skip the long-winded intros and warp drive straight to the list that shows that this film’s far from being a subversive masterpiece.
1. The Finn/Rose Romance
Definitely the most minor of issues but I distinctly recall this one really irking me for some reason (and no, it’s not because I ship FinnXPoe). I think it simply boils down to the fact that this “romance” doesn’t feel earned nor developed. Rose’s sudden kissing of Finn really comes right the hell out of nowhere and the implication is meant to be that she’s fallen for him. But I never felt like that was the direction their relationship was going at all throughout the movie. Close friends, maybe, but certainly not anything romantic.
Granted, it doesn’t detract at all from the rest of the movie and it’s not like Finn confirms he feels the same way. Hell, he looked just as surprised as I did when it happened so it’s possible it’s completely one-sided. And who knows, maybe the next film won’t even address it and this section will become completely irrelevant.
So, yeah, a little weird, forced and unnecessary but otherwise harmless. Let’s move on to something a bit juicer.
2. Luke Seems Indecisive
As much as I loved Luke’s portrayal in TLJ, there was one recurring aspect about it that really bugged me and that was his constant flip-flopping on whether to train Rey or not. OK, maybe “constant” is a bit much but it does happen.
At first he refuses because he thinks the Jedi need to end, but he changes his mind after R2 shows him Leia’s old message from A New Hope. Fair enough, but during Rey’s first lesson, she very nearly taps into the Dark Side, which quite rightly terrifies Luke and probably triggers a lot of bad memories for him. I love this quote of his in particular:
“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before in Ben Solo. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”
Well, shit, after that he’s probably going to immediately stop training Rey, right? Actually, no, he doesn’t because… um, I’m not really sure. The look of fear in his eyes, the way he storms off, that aforementioned line; it felt like that was him calling it quits and realising he made a bad decision but the next time we see the two together, he’s teaching her about the Jedi’s history. I’m not the only one that’s a bit confused by this, am I?
And after that, when he catches Rey conversing with Kylo Ren, he decides to end the training there and then and demands Rey leave. God damn, dude, make up your mind already. Also, if you really wanted the Jedi to be extinct, why didn’t you burn that tree down sooner?
Maybe to others, this made Luke a little more complex but it personally just bugged me a bit.
3. Phasma is Wasted
OK, now here’s something that legitimately frustrated me. Before The Force Awakens, Phasma was being hyped up as the next Boba Fett; a relatively minor character that happened to be super bad-ass and would become a fan-favourite. At least, that’s what we assumed. Turned out what they meant was a relatively minor character that was meant to be super bad-ass but would spend most of their screen-time getting punked by the heroes to an almost humiliating degree.
I was so stoked to see what Phasma would do in the previous movie but she ended up unceremoniously getting shoved down a trash chute off-screen. So obviously I had hoped her appearance in TLJ would make up for it. … Nope.
She is completely absent from the movie till the third act where she pops almost out of nowhere to catch Finn and Rose, takes her sweet-ass time ordering their execution, gets into an admittedly cool one-on-one fight with Finn and is then killed off. Actually, I take that first one back because she’s not the one to catch them; it’s frigging BB-9E – the random, evil BB-8, who I think is even more obtrusive than the Porgs. At least the Porgs are cute and add a little bit of harmless levity to scenes; BB-9E’s sole purpose is to sell another toy (consider it an unofficial number 6 on this list).
I probably wouldn’t be as mad if they didn’t keep hyping her up in the promotional materials, making out as if we were going to see a different side to her character, but we got none of that. And to make things even more infuriating, we recently got to see this deleted scene from the film, WHICH IS PERFECT! It adds depth to her otherwise pretty basic characterisation, justifies her actions in the previous film, fulfils the “somebody must lose a hand” quota and gives a bit more leeway to potentially bring her back. I feel like the death she ended up getting was a lot more final; there’s no way she’s coming back from that.
While I’m sure there’re some side materials like books or comics that could provide the Phasma gloriousness I wanted, it’s still a huge shame that she’ll never make that kind of an impact on the big screen.
4. Rey’s Boring
Trust me, typing out those two words hurt. If you didn’t read my original article about The Force Awakens, I spent several paragraphs making it quite clear that I loved Rey as a protagonist, which was why I was rather disappointed with her portrayal in The Last Jedi. It’s not like she became poorly written or anything, but she was just… dull.
Part of her arc in this film is her stepping into the role of main hero and, unfortunately, she seemed to have fallen into the same trap that some main heroes do. Most of her dialogue is very stock and generic. She repeats how the Resistance is in trouble and they need Luke’s help, like, three or four times in her first several scenes. Even the performance feels a bit stale, like Daisy Ridley is simply going through the motions. There’s very little of the energy she had in the previous film.
Even her scenes with Kylo, which should’ve been fascinating to watch, I got rather tired of very quickly. The first couple were great; them slowly realising they’re somehow connected, Rey initially displaying both fear and anger, eventually screaming at him because of his murder of Han – that felt emotionally charged and I was invested. But then they start to “bond” and Rey gradually starts to see Kylo as a potential ally and someone who needs to be saved if they want to win the war, which I honestly have issues with considering her aforementioned outburst. I mean, she grew really close to Han in the short time they knew each other; I find it hard to believe she’d be so quick to forgive his murderer.
It’s especially annoying since we do get shades of the old Rey in a few small moments, like her peeking out from underneath the Millennium Falcon to feel rain for the first time, her first training session with Luke where she demonstrates how inexperienced with the Force she is (seriously, that “reaching out” bit was adorable and hilarious) and when she takes Kylo’s lightsaber to try and fight Snoke; like God damn, I love angry Rey so much.
And how about the revelation that her long lost parents were a couple of nobodies that sold her off for some quick cash and are now lying dead in a random ditch? What a fantastic twist that was, especially since it turned out Rey kind of already knew but refused to accept it all these years. It was probably the only thing that kept her going for so long and to see her tearfully admit the truth was heartbreaking. Plus, it’s great to have Rey become a hero not because of some prophecy or her heritage but just because she wants to. It makes for a refreshing change of pace compared to Anakin and Luke.
I think maybe part of why I found Rey less interesting or engaging was due to how she no longer had the likes of Finn or Han to bounce off of. She spends most of the film with either Luke (who doesn’t really want to talk to her a lot of the time and most of their interactions are dedicated to training) or Kylo. That and the script didn’t seem to give her a lot to work with. Hopefully, with J.J. Abrams taking over again for the next film, Rey will bounce back and become a more interesting and entertaining character again.
5. Holdo Withholds Info
This one is easily the biggest issue I have with the entire film, which is somewhat ironic since it goes hand-in-hand with one of my favourite aspects of TLJ – that the good guys lose. I’ve already explained why in my previous article so I won’t repeat myself here but while I did say that I loved how Finn and Rose’s plans failed, leading to the Resistance being badly crippled, there is one rather glaring fault with it – so much could have been avoided if Holdo hadn’t withheld her plan.
Think about it; the only reason Poe helped Finn and Rose escape to Canto Bight was because he was convinced that Holdo had no strategy. All they seemed to be doing was retreat with no attempt to counter or learn how the First Order was tracking them. As the film goes on and we see more of the Resistance’s ships being blown up, it honestly starts to look like Holdo isn’t fit to be in a position of leadership, prompting Poe and several others to stage a mutiny (so it’s clearly not just Poe being a self-absorbed asshole – there were others who agreed with him). It’s not until after Leia recovers and stops the mutiny that we learn Holdo DID have a plan – to reach the nearby planet Crait and evacuate to an old Resistance base there. So… why didn’t Holdo just explain that?
Seriously, why didn’t she? Had she done that, Poe might’ve been less inclined to try and take over or even help Finn and Rose with their plan. Sure, what Finn and Rose were doing was no less risky but it was a result of believing they had no other options. Had Holdo simply explained, so much shit could have been avoided.
What makes it worse is that I don’t think there’s any explanation as to WHY she didn’t tell everyone. Why would you keep such an important plan a secret from your own soldiers, especially in a situation this dire? A situation where they are watching their allies, their friends, being blown to smithereens? Had they dropped a line somewhere about Holdo suspecting a traitor on board or she was simply distrusting or anything like that, it would’ve at least been something to justify it but, as it stands, it just makes Holdo look kind of incompetent and/or needlessly antagonistic towards Poe.
Honestly, I find Holdo to be a confusing character. She seemed fine at first but there’s immediate tension when she takes over for Leia and is clearly not impressed with Poe because of his “cocky hotshot pilot” image. She’s quick to keep him out of the loop at almost every turn; it’s no wonder he gets pissed off with her. But once the evacuation starts and an unconscious Poe is bundled onto one of the space lifeboats, Holdo says this line to Leia:
“He’s a real troublemaker. … I like him.”
… WHAT?! When have you ever displayed any sort of affection for him throughout the movie?! You’ve been nothing but weary and frustrated with him, but turns out you actually kind of liked him?! Get the hell out of here! You may have been responsible for that amazing warp-drive scene (like, seriously, God damn, that was awesome) but that doesn’t save you from being one of the most inconsistently written characters I’ve ever seen!
It’s shit like this that ultimately holds The Last Jedi back from being as amazing as it could’ve been. It’s like the writers knew where they wanted the characters to be by the end of the film and what events would happen to reach those points, but didn’t consider how to make those events make any sense. I’ll always appreciate The Last Jedi for having the sheer balls to take risks and create something special and surprising, but maybe a return to something more traditional in the future might not be a bad idea.